I Accidentally Killed The Protagonist
The scene that was playing out before me was far from the one that I expected to see bathed in the light that peeked through the sun-dappled leaves. In the distance, I could see the sluggish, prolonged movements of those trapped in slowed time. Thankfully, nobody had noticed the gleaming metallic spacecraft that had crashed just metres outside the school gate. But I didn't have long. Human reaction time is 0.25 seconds. 0.25 seconds, even when slowed, is still just 0.25 seconds. The only people moving at a normal speed were me and the alien standing in front of me.
"Replace? You think I have the power to disguise myself? That's a little presumptive," Ezu fumbled.
"Well, do you?"
"I mean, I do... but that's not the point."
"Perfect! I have his appearance data on file."
I present Ezu with a picture of Shintaro. In a matter of seconds, Ezu's skin flickered and shimmered, the outer layer gradually transforming, the process trailing from his feet to his head until the Shintaro in the image and the Shintaro he had become were indistinguishable from one another. Well... except for his eyes.
"Is there anything you can do about your eyes being different?" I sighed.
"Uh, nope, I don't think so. We don't have the technology for that yet."
"It can't be helped, we'll pass it off as being contact lenses until we find a more permanent solution." I take one last ghost breath and absorb the situation that's unfolding. Ezu stands there, nonplussed. I really had no choice but to settle for this good-for-nothing alien after all.
"It looks like we'll be working together on this one. I have all of Shintaro's data ready: his relationship with his relatives, his favourite foods, his situation at school, his past failures... anything you might need."
"Ah, I get it now," Ezu replied eagerly.
I'm getting through already? This is going more smoothly than I thought.
"You're his stalker."
Even though it was just the words of an oblivious extraterrestrial, the idea that what I do could be perceived that way completely caught me off guard.
"No... I- Well, I guess I kind of am. But it's my job!"
I collected myself and realised that, if this really was going to be the plan, I would have to be forthcoming with him.
"Yes. I'm what we call a Story Spirit. You might not know this, since you're... not from around here, but Story Spirits have existed alongside humanity for thousands of years. We pick those who we deem worthy, those who can carve their name into history with inspiring stories, and we watch and guide them. Our job was a lot more... glamorous back in the day. Following the exploits of great warlords, brilliant tacticians, and real history-makers. People like King Arthur, Liu Bei, Mansa Musa, Boudica... Nowadays, societies are a lot more settled, and stories are a lot more common. Even people like Shintaro, whose story is nothing more than the exploits of one boy at high school, have a role to play in all this. So long as stories continue to inspire and intrigue, we Story Spirits will continue to make sure everything goes according to plan."
"So... you're not a human?"
That was your only takeaway from everything I just said?
"No, before you get any funny ideas that all humans can float. I could have chosen to wander the world, lost forever. But then I learned that even the spiritual realm has an economy," I replied solemnly.
"Okay," Ezu blurted out, as if the idea of me being a supernatural entity was entirely unworthy of note. Although, I was the one talking to an alien right now. "So Earth is home to more than just intelligent humans."
"That's cool...! Although, I'll have to factor that into the population subjugation plan..."
I was about to cut in and tell Ezu that he should forget about his plans of invasion, or whatever exactly he or his species were planning to do, on account of having to focus on this plan. But then I thought to myself... how long exactly will I need Ezu to act as Shintaro? The story itself only covers his high school exploits, after all, Story Spirits are there to guide stories, which typically chronicle the most notable years of a character's life in regard to what the focus of the story is. However, in terms of Shintaro's life beyond that... well, there was no longer a Shintaro in this world. When the plan is complete... would I have to let Ezu go and have everyone come to terms with that? Or would I have to keep up this ruse forever?
"Um... so, with that in mind, I would like to make up my mistake to you as quickly as possible, so I can get back to that."
My train of thought was interrupted by Ezu. That's right, I didn't have much time left. This was the only option I had. My livelihood is on the line.
"Right, right. So, you're ready?"
"I think so."
I held out my hand.
"My name is Nare Nohate, Sunrise Sector Story Spirit. A pleasure to be working with you."
Ezu froze for a moment as if threatened, then relaxed when he realised my hand wasn't moving any further.
"W...What are you doing?"
"This? Oh, uh, it's a handshake, like a greeting. You... you do this."
I mimicked the action by shaking my two hands together, almost panicked by having to explain something so natural. Ezu watched this intently and lifted up his own hand. He then proceeded to shake his own hand with his other hand.
"I'm Ezu Floccinaucinihilipilificatio. P...Pleasure to work being with you."
I drooped my head in minor despair.
"I... think I'll stick to calling you Ezu."